Stampede Pass, the intended capstone to my Stanford train-hopping days, is still a few weeks away. I became impatient and headed down to San Jose. The CIBAT (City of Industry-Bay Area Trailers) consistently hits San Jose around 11 a.m. en route to Oakland.
My Caltrain delivered me to San Jose before 9:30 a.m., so I was in no hurry to descend to Los Gatos Creek and hide like a troll under the tracks. Fresh off the train, I was leafing through some new timetables when the passing CIBAT rattled the station’s windows.
What the hell! I raced through the front doors, around the south end of the station, and over a chain-link fence. It being a holiday morning, no eyewitnesses were loitering in the vicinity.
The CIBAT was going a little faster than my last northbound; I had to settle for the pig behind my intended ride. Upon crawling into a secure position, I reclasped my watch. It had come unsnapped when I grabbed the vibrating ladder.
We picked up speed at Santa Clara and bolted into familiar territory: saltgrass marshes, a radiantly blooming flower farm and East Bay subdivisions. The CIBAT made good hotshot time. In an hour, I was in Oakland, staring at the freeway on the left and the barbed wire on the right. We were stopped for a meet.
I had no desire to sit like an idiot on such a brilliant day. Toward the rear, I found a break in the fence and emerged on 19thAvenue. About a mile north stands a Vietnamese restaurant that I discovered on an earlier ride to Oakland. I am surely their only regular who comes by freight.
After lunch I strolled through the local Chinatown, then headed home on legitimate carriers. By 3 p.m. I was back in Palo Alto, having circuited the Bay by freight, BART, Muni bus, and Caltrain. It was, as always, a pleasure to come back unmaimed, unarrested, and generally unnoticed by the informant-riddled public.
Long ago, when I was exuberantly serving my apprenticeship in Oregon’s yards, a hobo snapped, “It’s not good to be seen!” What would he think now, to see me applying his philosophy to everything in life and not just train-hopping?
Abdul Rahimov has a Ph.D. in Russian history from Stanford. He studied earlier at Harvard and grew up in Illinois in a railroad-dominated town.Rahimov prefers to use a pen name to avoid attracting unnecessary attention from railroads. He lives on the East Coast.